The presumption of talent and appearance of competence is an illusion that can trick even the wisest of leaders and managers. Ask any manager to rank their employees best to worst and they will easily come up with the top and bottom, while struggling a little to identify the middle. Why is it so easy to come up with the top and bottom? We intuitively know who our star performers are, who our weakest players are, because we are making these assumptions based on data and facts–right?
In some cases managers may use completely objective metrics and decision making in identifying their top and bottom performers. Unfortunately, that is not the usual scenario. Work is a social activity and humans are fundamentally social creatures. This means that all too often subjective criteria comes into play when managers make “top performer” classifications.
“But I know they are my top performer, because they get the results I want,” you say. You may be right, but do they actually have the glow your business needs. Do they represent the full package of what a top performer should have and be? Are you looking beyond the tangible results? Metrics are great for determining performance success, but miss the intangible effects of that performance.
Have you ever hired someone, as a rock-star performer, who had tremendous success early on and then fizzled out, left and you had to pick up the pieces? Have you ever had or currently have a star performer who gets results, but they cause other employee issues? Have you ever been challenged to address these issues with your top player, because you are afraid they’ll get mad and leave? These are all common scenarios managers have with their alleged top performers.
If you can look beyond the tangible results your star performers are attaining, you will be able to tell if they are true stars and have the glow your business needs to really succeed.
Do They Have Raving Fans?
That is, other than customers and management. So this is a tough one. Typically your top performers may be beloved by management and if in a customer facing position, beloved by them as well. You say they are a top performer, because they solve customer problems easily, they can get things done that management asks and they are always willing to help…management.
Now, on the flip side, are they creating internal raving fans by doing the same thing? Do they help others solve problems? True top performers will always be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. They will be willing to help any member of the organization solve a problem, even if it detracts from their ability to achieve their goals. These are typically the individuals who will quickly jump to the aid of others without being asked to do so.
True top performers will also generate an internal fan base and become respected for their ability to relate well with all in the organization. You will hear others talking about this individual and the great things they do and assist. This is when you know you have a true performer that affects the entire organization. When someone’s peers send them praise and speak highly of them, it means they are really positively impacting the entire organization.
Do They Follow as Well as They Lead?
Another indication of a true top performer is that they are humble enough not to have to be the center of attention every time in every situation. They will follow others and apply their talents to help others achieve their goals and objectives. An internally focused top performer will drive only for their own results and means, but rarely will assist others unless they get some sort of glory from it themselves.
What does this look like in a top performer? This would be the individual who not only achieves his/her own results, but has fingerprints on the results of others as well. I say fingerprints, because they are hard to see, they are not apparent and rarely does someone know they are leaving them behind. Make sense? True top performers are not worried about campaigning for themselves while helping others. They assist because they can help, not because they want recognition.
They Understand “Business”
Let’s face it, businesses exist to make money and turn a profit (unless you’re a non-profit). Businesses don’t exist simply to employ people. True top performers will understand and comprehend the needs of the business more so than others. They understand that they are part of the team and apply themselves well to the current needs of the business. An imposter top performer will complain when things don’t go his way, because it affects his ability to achieve his goals. A true top performer will quickly adjust course, setting aside his objectives if necessary, to help the organization achieve its goals.
They Coach and Teach Others
Anyone worthy of the title of top performer is willing to, and actively engaged in helping others become better. This is the most critical sign that your top performer truly does have the glow the organization needs. This also means she is fully committed to the organization, its mission and her coworkers. Again, top performers see the bigger picture beyond themselves and their own personal gain.
What does this look like? They will teach others skills and mentor them in career development. They will take new employees and other emerging star performers under their wing and help them become better. They are not afraid of others succeeding and achieving.
An organization may have many presumptive top performers…people who will get results and achieve their objectives. However, true top performers will go above and beyond. They will be champions of the organization and others.